The Summer Heroes

Session 8 - Narrative 1
The Fall of the Pirate-King

Darkness drank the streets of Brightwater, while a pale sliver of the moon competed unsuccessfully with the clouds that littered the sky. Doors and windows were shut, and an unearthly calm seemed to grip the city: usually bustling with the movement of goods and people to and from the docks, and the taverns, and the markets—even very late into the evening—the martial law imposed by the Silver Palace practically shut down the city when the sun sank beneath the horizon.

The occasional clop, clop, clop of soldiers’ boots against the cobblestones of Brightwater’s avenues and alleys echoed in the stillness as patrols made their ways through the market district, the warehouse district, the noble district—a vast pattern of security sweeps that caught up everything in its net.

Or, almost everything, at least, for a fisherman can trawl with a net and leave the smallest of the ocean’s creatures un-caught.

Darion of House Albion stole across the city, aided in his flight by a slight stature, dark clothing, and a keen sense of perception—even if he was, admittedly, hampered by a relative ineptness at things that required a degree of stealth or physical finesse. Propelled by a need to minimize the potential political blowback against him, against his family, against his House, from the completion of their adventuring company’s latest mission, he chanced discovery for opportunity.

The rattle and rustle of weapons and armor and the clop, clop, clop of footsteps stayed his momentum, and he ducked into an alley, swallowed by the night and unrevealed by the bright interposition of torches or lanterns. The guards swept by on their patrol and Darion heaved a sigh of relief as the sounds of their movements faded into the distance.

Forward again, and a stiff breeze blew the smell of salt and ocean in from the bay, tinged with the lingering fragments of fish and spices and tar, a clear sign he was close to the warehouse district, if he had needed one. A familiar face near the docks from his time ministering at the hospitals for sea-borne-travelers run by the church of Eidothea, the Sunken Goddess, the young oracle had grown more widely known after several of his prophecies had saved ships and sailors. It was his spurning of the notorious pirate “king”, Elegabalor, which had truly gotten him widespread recognition.

Bereft, however, of his customary robe and accoutrements, lacking even the silver hourglass that marked him as a member of the Curators of the Sands of Time, he was just another shadow in the dark, and safe—at least, of course, so long as a need for close inspection did not present itself.

The docks were in sight, and more heavily patrolled than other areas of the city had been, but a very small creature can fit through the holes in even a tightly woven net, and the half-elf redirected his path around the soldiers, taking a more circuitous route to his destination. He spied the location where he was to meet his contacts—and there set out on a tiny rowboat out into Brightwater Bay—though the powerful stone foundations of the warehouses that housed the city’s wealth eclipsed much of it from view.

He hurried forward and relaxed, just a fraction, as he spied the tiny watercraft and the two who were to take him out into the Bay. A swift exchange of passwords saw him seated aboard the craft—the barest slip of a ship, and perfect for evading a blockade, especially on a dark night such as this—and being borne out over the water.

Darion breathed a little easier as the oars dipped quietly into the sea and propelled them forward, but the ease was replaced with immediate worry as a preternatural silence descended on him, and he noticed there was nothing more to be heard. He looked, alarmed, back at his companions, and was met with a brutal and noiseless blow. An involuntary cry of pain escaped his lips—but though his mouth moved, there was nothing to be heard. Struck again, with more-than-a-little force and malice, he slumped forward in the boat, in a silent heap.

*

“What do you mean, missing?” Talerion asked. The slight-almond shape of his eyes grew more defined, as his half-elven heritage announced itself when they narrowed in anger. His voice was brittle and strained, “None of us were to leave. We decided it was too dangerous.”

The daggers in his tone flew out at Estrildis, his twin sister, and she visibly flinched. “He was to meet with someone out in the bay,” she said; roused in the middle of the night, her ever-styled hair was mussed, and she drew a scarlet shawl closer around her shoulders, with a shiver. “I received word from a contact that he never made it to his destination.”

A chorus of questions tumbled forth from his companions, the newly-christened Summer Heroes, who had recovered ancient tomes, slain hydras, and averted a war, and now seemed to have lost the one who healed their wounds with energy plucked from the world’s divine fabric. Their thoughts immediately turned to action, and they demanded to know where he had gone so that they could begin their search.

Estrildis shifted uncomfortably. “He was going to meet a contact, out in the bay,” she reiterated, “but he never even made it to the boat that was to take him out, so he must’ve been taken before he got there, somewhere in the city.”

Estrildis’ evasion of Darion’s purpose continued and the group grew increasingly impatient. “We cannot hope to find him if we don’t know where he was going,” Erlindar insisted, his brow creased in concern. Another chorus struck up, of agreement with the wizard, but Darion’s older sister continued to insist that his destination was immaterial. “Please,” she implored, “give me a little time. If I can get any leads on what might’ve happened to him, I will tell you immediately.”

The group dissolved into discussion over the need for haste and the need for information. Mina and Abajeet noted the near-impossibility of starting a search for someone without anything to go on, and the problems of the martial law eventually transformed haste into an impatient and reluctant willingness to wait for Estrildis’ contacts.

*

Darion was dumped unceremoniously onto the hard, wooden deck of a ship. The movement jolted him back into consciousness, and his vision cleared and focused after a brown hood was roughly removed. The clouds were gone, and the pale light of the moon and the twinkling stars gave the figures standing around him a sickly and haunting glow.

His hands were fastened behind his back and the thick iron bands of manacles bit fiercely into the skin of his wrists and around his feet. His expression melted from surprise and confusion into realization and understanding as he recognized the harsh and unforgiving features of Elegabalor, who sneered and laughed at the Curator’s predicament. His head throbbed from the blow he’d received earlier, and his despair deepened as he noticed the faint outlines of the White Cliffs of Penwith far in the background.

This was almost certainly Elegabalor’s flagship, the Poisoned Fortune, and as it cut through the water, Darion assumed he was being taken to the ruined city of Starll, whose anarchy allowed for the flourishing of piracy. He prayed silently that his companions would find him — and soon — for the pirate-king hadn’t offered a 25,000 gold bounty on Darion because he wanted to have a polite chat.

He shuddered in pain after a vicious kick to his stomach, and he snapped away from speculation on his situation and coughed and choked and coughed, tasks made all the more difficult by the gag that had been stuffed in his mouth and secured with a leather strap tied around his head. “Insolent shit,” Elegabalor said, as a crew member gave the oracle another kick to the midsection, his voice roiling with anger, contempt, and disgust.

The wind whistled by and filled the Poisoned Fortune’s sails, whisking it ever forward. “Take him below,” the pirate-king spat.

*

Silence reigned over the sitting room of Estrildis’ house, as the news she’d conveyed sank in and tied the tongues of the Summer Heroes. Erlindar interrupted the quiet: “You’re sure?”

“One can never be completely sure,” Estrildis responded, her pretty features pinched in worry, “but yes. I sent my two best people to facilitate the meeting, and their bodies were just found over by the docks. Darion was definitely captured alive, though, and all the evidence is pointing in the same direction.”

Talerion sighed, deeply, and leaned forward, briefly putting his head in his hands, which were in turn supported by elbows-atop-knees. His distress faded, and he looked back up at the group. “We have to go,” he said, “and we have to go now.”

A gnome with brightly colored hair nodded in assent. “They are almost certainly headed back to Starll,” she said, “and their lead on us is not-inconsiderable.” Juru’s tone was strained and serious; one of Darion’s earlier prophecies had saved her and her crew, some years before, and she did not consider the debt repaid. With a clear course of action ahead of them, the group agreed to go, with little discussion and less dissent. Weapons and armor were retrieved, and as the first rays of the dawn’s sun settled on the city, the Summer Heroes were off.

Estrildis stood in the doorway, a lonely and weary figure, and watched them dash off to the docks; none looked back, and after they had diminished into the distance she closed the heavy wooden door. Close listening would’ve heard the clank of the metal lock, and what seemed to be quiet sobbing, but everyone had gone.

*

Time was hard to track in the bowels of a ship, where tightly-pressed wooden beams kept out the sun as surely as the sea, and even a stint in a dungeon’s cells could be reliably tracked by the regular appearance of gruel and water. But here there was no food, and barely any water, and the dull throbbing pain of his head and the growing ache of his stomach were matched — and, in truth, far surpassed — only by the sinking of sharp metal into flesh, or the twisting of limbs, or the application of hot iron.

After the first few hours, the pain had grown overwhelming, and Darion had vomited and nearly choked to death from the gag. Elegabalor had impatiently demanded its removal, insisting that the oracle survive until his trial in Starll, and since then his mouth had been unencumbered, and any sign of spell-casting was met with a terrible swift blow by the crewmember who hawked ever over him.

His earliest cries of pain had given way to a voice run ragged, though a quiet response to Elegabalor’s ministrations was met with a vastly increased effort on the latter’s part, and so Darion made little attempt to hold them back anymore. The howls seemed to cheer the crew, anyway, and Elegabalor made pointed indication that he wished them to continue.

Through it all, the so-called pirate king asked no questions and sought no answers. Pain for the sake of pain; torture for the sake of torture. The navies of Saltstone and Ystria and Brightwater could not catch him, merchants could not flee him, and an impudent young oracle had denied him the prophecy he demanded — indeed, denied him any prophecy at all, for there was no vision of gold and plunder and murder, as Darion had instead met the pirate with an unbroken silence and shamed him publicly.

Elegabalor seethed at the memory and twisted the white-hot poker further into the half-elf’s thigh, burning past the tatters that remained of his clothes to bite into and sear the flesh. He smiled at the satisfaction, the scars that ran the length of his face puckering the grin into a grotesque grimace.

Space was precious aboard a ship at sea, but plenty had been cleared for this in the cargo hold, and Darion slumped forward in unconsciousness, held mostly upright by the ropes that had been anchored to the hold’s surfaces. Elegabalor withdrew the instrument and pulled a paper-wrapped glass tube from a pocket in his vest. He tossed the healing elixir over the oracle, to the crewmember that had the grisly duty at this hour.

“Revive him. I want him conscious when I have finished eating.”

The crewmember gruffly took Darion’s jaw in hand and dumped the potion in the latter’s mouth. As the liquid curled and swirled through his system, the pain began to subside and the oracle awoke — roused, again, from an unconscious slumber forced on him by agony into a conscious awareness colored by the discomfort of severed sinews re-attaching themselves, bones mending, and flesh knitting.

Sometime later Elegabalor returned. Darion looked up at him, weakly, and noted that the pirate was not alone. A tall, lanky humanoid was with him: he was pale with sunken eyes and a shaved head. Patterns and designs of some bizarre origin had been tattooed around his scalp and neck—and perhaps elsewhere, but his black leather armor denied further ocular investigation.
Elegabalor nodded at the crewmember who’d been tending to Darion. “Leave us,” he commanded. The low-level pirate hastily made his way out, giving the pirate-king’s companion a berth so wide as to move from “respectful” to “fearful”.

The tattooed man began a low incantation in a tongue Darion didn’t recognize. Elegabalor’s eyes glittered with malicious mirth as the chanting continued. Soon, the pale and shaven man withdrew something from a pocket and, as he continued the ritual, traced a symbol in an oozing black liquid onto the oracle’s right hand and down onto his upper arm. The liquid bubbled and hissed and sank into Darion’s skin; he stepped away and, after a few more words in the guttural language, nodded to Elegabalor.

The pirate-king stepped forward and drew a vicious, serpentine dagger in an elegant sweep. He leaned close, with the smell of rich food and drink on his breath, and traced the pattern of the symbol on Darion’s hand and arm with the blade. The metal was old and dull and tore at the half-elf’s flesh, and as he carved over the black outline, Elegabalor said, “Now I have a prophecy for you.”

He finished carving the rune into the oracle and then continued, “When you die,” and at this, his face broke into a wide and hideous grin—briefly, before subsiding, “this is going to send you to the Labyrinth of the Sixth Hell, and bind you there to serve me forever.”

Elegabalor seemed to grow almost wistful, “That’s why my first ship was the Mouth of Hell. You’d be surprised what you can do with a few souls to help power a vessel. Fat merchants and their stupid sailors are hardly worth wasting the ritual on, but you will be most useful.” He seemed to snap of out his reverie, and he handed the dagger to his tattooed companion. “Bring this to Lennith and Jahannam.” The other man nodded and left the cargo area to make his way up.

Elegabalor turned his attention back to Darion and drew a now-familiar weapon from his side. He traced it, almost delicately, along the lines of the oracle’s face, and was pleased to see — at last — genuine fear in Darion’s eyes. “They say the Labyrinth is worse even than the Mindscape,” he said. And with that he grew silent, and the bite of the steel grew stronger.

*

Wind filled the sails of Juru’s Other Lantern, sending the craft skittering forward across the ocean, the ship’s slim lines cutting through the sea at a pace usually deemed unnecessary for merchants who dealt in legal goods.

A mist surrounded the ship, shielding it from view and vexing the Summer Heroes. “How can you navigate if you cannot see where you are going?” Thalion asked Juru. She had simply motioned at the troll who stood near her. “We can see,” she replied. “No one else sees anything but a fog. And that is the point.”

“But how will we know when we are near?” Thalion pressed. The troll and Juru briefly passed a glance between them, and a bemused smile seemed to pull at the troll’s lips and bare the teeth between his tusks. “We will tell you,” Juru responded, impatiently. Her tone dismissed the ranger, and Thalion turned and left, disappointed.

Talerion stood at the bow of the ship, unmoving and unspeaking, staring into the mists ahead. Erlindar occasionally prevailed upon him to come below and eat, to keep up his strength, but he barely spoke doing those times. Except, of course, for his first outburst, which had occurred as a relative calm settled over the ship once they were well away from Brightwater.

He’d cornered Pirro in one of the ship’s narrow passageways and shoved him forward roughly, into the wall behind. “You were his guard,” Talerion snarled, his forearm pressed against the monk’s neck, his powerful build keeping him pinned in place. “To lose one Curator is a tragedy,” he said, and laughed, with a bitter sarcasm, “but to lose two — two looks like carelessness.”

“But you…” gasped Pirro, “are his brother…”

Rage and angst burned in Talerion’s eyes, and Pirro seized the moment to throw the erstwhile-swashbuckler off. A tussle ensued, and the two were separated with more than a little difficulty. Thereafter Talerion took up his post, and the rest steered clear.

*

The Poisoned Fortune arrived in Starll’s ruined harbor after about five days of travel, on a crisp and clear morning. Curious onlookers gawked at Elegabalor and his crew, as the former rarely came ashore, and certainly never brought prisoners. Some of the crew quickly set about assembling a stage with a gallows, which brought even more curious pirates.

Elegabalor’s vendetta against the Curator was considered by many to be excessive, but the pirate-king had ostensibly earned the right to excess in his years of depredations, and so as word spread of the coming event a crowd began to form.

Darion had been brusquely cleaned and clad in a white robe, on which was crudely painted a comically-oversized hourglass, an obvious mockery of his order. He was frail, and drawn, and clearly struggling to remain upright, as he stood, bound, at the pirate-king’s side, and Elegabalor had pierced Darion’s left wrist and smeared the resulting blood in a vertical line down the oracle’s face, in another vulgar mockery of the oracle and The Oracle.

The stage rapidly took shape, and after a few hours the spectators had grown numerous and impatient — and the gallows complete, rough, and undoubtedly effective. The Poisoned Fortune’s crew took up places in a half-circle around the front of the stage, and Elegabalor mounted the stairs, followed by an unwilling Darion and a very willing and hooded executioner.

The pirate-king’s speech was surprisingly long-winded and more than a little vainglorious, but this was to be a trial of Darion, the Curators, and the society that was too weak, too soft, to resist the pirates and their power. And Darion was a convenient stand-in for that society — praying to gods and mucking about with fate and books, unable to properly wield a weapon and too stupid to raise a proper and effective defense.

The list of crimes and offenses supposedly committed by Darion was lengthy and his trial little more than a lengthy denunciation that provided a path to a foregone verdict. At the end of it all, Elegabalor sentenced the oracle to death, to the laughter and jeers of the crowd. The executioner gruffly scooped the half-elf up and threw him over his shoulder, a final indignity before death, before carrying him over to the noose, which he then affixed around his neck.

*

Juru’s Other Lantern slid expertly into Starll’s harbor, deftly avoiding the traps and hazards laid by the pirates with a skill that could only come from experience. The Lantern was not totally unknown in the harbor, and passed without issue, ignored, not least because so many had withdrawn from their ships to observe Elegabalor’s spectacle.

The Summer Heroes were on deck, arrayed in armor, weapons glittering and sharp, while the air crackled with magic and burned with fury. The colorful gnomish ship pulled as near to the shore as it could, its shallow draft and the high tide allowing its personnel practically to jump from deck to beach.

The crowd was distracted and the companions desperate, for Darion’s time was up: The executioner threw the lever near the gallows’ side, and in a moment of stunning bowmanship and serene, internal clarity, Thalion loosed an arrow from his bow that soared through the air and ripped through the noose’s rope. Darion plunged through the trapdoor and landed on the ground beneath the stage with a dull thud, while the crowd’s collective breath was caught for a split second before they realized what had happened.

Surprised at the sheer audacity, the brazenness, of their actions, the crowd of pirates milled about, uncertain what to do. Elegabalor was called the pirate-king, but only his crew owed him any true allegiance, and many in the crowd decided to watch the inevitable bloodbath.

The companions rushed forward, as did Elegabalor’s crew and the pirate-king himself. Juru’s crew struggled to push the crowd of pirates to the side and subdue them — some unruly because they wished to join in the fight, but others because they simply wanted a better view.

Abajeet flew forward, newly-grown dragonfly wings — undoubtedly the product of some recent experiment gone terribly wrong (or terribly right) — propelling her tiny form up and towards the stage. And, as the crowd was jostled out of the way, the two sides clashed.

Erlindar flung spells at the Poisoned Fortune’s crew, trapping some beneath sticky webbing and scorching others with rays of orange and red flame. Mina and Talerion darted forward in hazes of slashing and death, each wielding short swords to devastating effect in decidedly different styles. Thalion snapped off several quick shots in rapid succession before stowing his bow and rushing forward, falchion drawn and deadly, a cold breath of frost and ice rippling and teaming across the blade.

Elegabalor laughed, his fury at the delay of his prize replaced by delight at the chance to take down his foe’s adventuring companions and friends. And — ah! — he spied the oracle’s brother: a bonus, to be sure. If the gods were real, then they were surely good, to allow for such sweet vengeance.

*

As Mina cut down several of his crew, she garnered Elegabalor’s attention. She lunged and darted, light on her feet and lithe, capable of bringing down creatures many times her size. Her weapon found its mark and drew the pirate-king’s blood; he responded with a brutal counter-assault that stunned her with its force and ferocity, and left her reeling, his attack tearing across the front of her arms and chest and leaving a line of scarlet in its wake.

Thalion rushed over to assist, while Pirro and Talerion tore through the _Fortune_’s lesser members in a veritable whirlwind of fists and blades, respectively, tearing down the wall of living flesh that stood between them and the gallows.

The hooded executioner plucked up the vicious, double-headed axe at his side and jumped down through the trapdoor, clearly intent on finishing his job. Abajeet rushed down after him, the delicacy of her wings a stark contrast to the monstrous features and claws imbued to her by the bubbling mutagens she quaffed before combat. She dove through the trapdoor’s opening and rushed towards the executioner, tearing and slashing at his face. Darion’s eyes widened in surprise at her appearance, and he struggled at his bonds with a renewed vigor.

Their view of those beneath the gallows obscured by the wooden planks around its base, the rest of the Summer Heroes struggled against the _Fortune_’s crew and its captain, claiming pirate after pirate for the kiss of cold, honed steel or the caress of the deadly arcane, but seemingly unable to break through Elegabalor’s defenses and take him down.

His attention diverted from Mina by Thalion’s appearance, the pirate-king proved good his fearsome reputation, bringing down blow after blow on the ranger and giving him red blossoms to match the ones he’d already given the rogue. Beneath the stage, the executioner landed a hideous hit with his axe, its full force and fury nearly swatting the alchemist out of the air completely.

Though the numbers had tilted in the Heroes’ favor, they were taking a drubbing from the pirate-king and the executioner; Talerion was overcome by a brief moment of indecision and, torn between helping Mina and Thalion — who were looking considerably worse for the wear — and finding his brother, he chose the latter and tore into the planks of the stage, roughly shaping an entrance by shattering and breaking the boards.

Drained and weakened by the terrible journey from Brightwater, Darion’s focus and determination slowly took hold and gave root, and with a great effort he broke the bonds that bound him and tore free the gag that silenced him and the leather that hobbled him. He staggered to his feet and looked at Talerion with weary relief, and the latter nodded his head in the direction of his other compatriots, outside the gallows, and Darion nodded back in comprehension and squeezed through an opening in the back of the stage. Rivulets of blood ran down Thalion’s armor, and Darion rushed over, whispering words and weaving silver threads that wrapped themselves around the ranger and began to close his wounds.

The executioner roared in anger and burst through the back of the stage, sending shards and splinters of wood through the air, pressed back by the intensity of Abajeet and Talerion’s assault. As Pirro brought down the last of Elegabalor’s crew, the pirate-king sneered and pivoted to face Darion. “I told you I would silence you forever,” he snarled, and swept his daggers across the unarmored half-elf in a vicious attack that nearly felled the oracle in one blow.

Talerion peripherally noted the event and shouted with outrage; he swung away from the executioner, who utilized the opportunity to land a brutal blow, and ran full tilt at the pirate-king. He raised his shortswords in fraternal fury and brought them down on Elegabalor again and again, hacking off the pirate’s left arm before plunging a sword hilt-deep into his heart.

Elegablor’s body shuddered and blood bubbled up and out of his mouth, and then fell away to the ground as Talerion pulled his weapon back. A dark purple light flashed from his body, and more blood poured from the erstwhile lord of pirates, staining the dirt of the ground with the liquid of his life.

Darion grimaced in pain and clutched his right arm to his chest, while shakily tracing symbols in the air with his left. The air around the executioner glowed briefly and fixed his feet to the ground, forbidding him from fleeing. Pirro bounded to the hooded man and landed blow after blow, and Abajeet tore into him with a gleeful anger, eventually pulling free both throat and mask.

On adrenaline highs, their chests heaving from exertion, the clamor of the pirate crowd came back into focus for the Summer Heroes, as they saw the horde being kept at bay by Juru and her crew. Darion slumped weakly against his brother’s side, who hastily sheathed his swords and gripped the former around his shoulders. “Thank you,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper, “thank you.”

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Session 7
In which Abajeet is rather grotesque

The group deals with the immediate aftermath of Abajeet and Mina’s “assassination attempt” of the Margravine. This includes Althea asking Darion some rather pointed questions. She gives him some (debatably) helpful information and warns him he will suffer if Mina dies. After some rather flippant remarks from the Curator, Althea extracts herself from the situation.

Darion attends to the Margravine and revives her. She agrees to provide them with whatever they need for the cure, which he claims they are working on. The group leaves the party, taking the time to destroy the statue using Thalion’s Dragon Watch Sword.

Back at the inn, Erlindar notices a fire and slowly interrupts a mysterious figure magically locking his friends’ doors. Everyone is able to get out of the inn, though some of the other guests do so only in death.

After getting as much rest as possible, everyone heads back to the Quarter Fair for the fireball competition and the Margravine’s concert. After acquiring some scrolls to cure Abajeet and Mina (who are a bit under the weather), a figure appears on stage, proclaims a lot of nonsense about the witches striking back against the Republic, and then summons two hydras (that breathe ice and fire). The crowd goes crazy, thinking it is part of the show. Then the hydras start eating the crowd, and they run away.

After a lot of graphic violence, the group manages to put down both hydras. Abajeet goes burrowing through one of them, extracting the heart and presenting it to the Margravine’s manager, telling him to cook it and have her eat it. He agrees, though he looks like he is going to be sick. The President meets with Darion briefly, urging him to resolve the diplomatic situation soon, as he is getting a lot of pressure to attack the Witchwood, especially after this incident. Darion tries to convey his suspicions about that not actually being a witch, but with no proof the President can do very little.

The group (which still does not have a name, and this should be rectified soon) travels to the Witchwood as fast as they can, chartering a boat. While exploring, they meet a young witch named Ceera, who agrees to take them to some of the Witchwood’s leadership. When asked, she responds that Mellitus came through here but she doesn’t know his current whereabouts.

She eventually leads them to a bustling encampment and three people – a Gnomish member of the Dragon Watch named Broderick, a warlock named Bayle, and Carmen herself, the President’s daughter. Carmen agrees to go back with the group, saying she had no idea how bad it really was. Broderick tells Thalion about his mission here, and how the Dragon Watch is playing both sides of the conflict. When Darion asks about Mellitus, Carmen leads him to the Curator, who is bound, gagged, and guarded. She relates how he attacked them, a story which he denies. Darion finds the whole situation amusing, but gets permission to bring Mellitus back with him, though keeps him bound and gagged. Bayle expresses an interest in the events, and mentions he will go speak to the historian Aryeon.

The three join the group and return to the ship at the edge of the Witchwood. The Captain is overjoyed to see Carmen. Before boarding, they discover that Mellitus is under a very powerful Geas spell.

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Session 6
In which the GM is kind of a dick

Following completion of the Crucible and the group’s part in preventing Glathrok’s resounding (and expected) victory, an aide to Tygon, President of the North, extends an invitation to Darion for he and his companions to attend a party at the Presidential Palace the following evening. Mina is also approached by the other person who completed their wave of the Crucible, Sondo, an old acquaintance. He informs her that the Arbiter (the North’s version of Uncle) wishes to speak with her, and he strongly suggests that she be at the Presidential Palace the following evening. After conferring with the rest of the group, she is relieved to find a way in.

Most sign up either for Archery, Wrestling, or both for the next day.

Glathrok is once again strongly favored in the Wrestling event, but Mina shocks everyone when she successfully defeats him (and Abajeet, but no one is surprised by that). Thalion defeats Pirro, avenging his loss in the Crucible, and defeats Mina in the finals. The crowd is mildly surprised that a member of the Dragon Watch has such prowess without his sword. During the match, Erlindar, Darion, and Tolarion see Althea Mellis watching Mina perform. They follow her, and eventually see her entering the Archery event.

Mina is shocked by Althea’s presence, and very few people are surprised when she wins the contest. She banters with Thalion the whole time, discussing the Dragon Watch and other matters, during which Thalion confirms that she can draw her blade and gets a glimpse of a bright glow. Afterwards she is approached by the entire group. Althea seems happy to see Mina, but torn about something. She confirms Mina’s parentage and extends a greeting from her father. She also reacts poorly to Darion’s presence, almost drawing her weapon. She tells Mina that she will see her again once Mina has claimed her heritage, but offers little else. She departs into the crowd, leaving Mina very confused, and manages to lose an invisible Erlindar trying to follow her.

Some of the group sign up for the next day’s events, the Wall and the Fire Producing event, commonly called Fireball Throwing. They depart back to their rooms to change for the party.

At the party, Sondo introduces Mina and Abajeet to the Arbiter for the Northern Crime Syndicate, taking his place behind him along with another woman (whom Erlindar identifies as an Orc under an illusion). The Arbiter asks Mina to confirm that she is no longer with Uncle (she does and is not) and that they are here on a diplomatic mission to prevent an actual Witch War (she refuses to comment). He informs them that war is profitable for his business, and informs them that their efforts over the last few days have cost him a great deal of money. Despite their protests, he declares that they owe him reparations, and that he will accept a Dragon Watch Sword as payment. He also warns that if they continue with their diplomatic mission, he will be displeased.

Darion is forced to listen to numerous people at the party ridicule both Brightwater’s style of government and the actions of House Xiri, including the massacre, their subservience to Soren Alchemists, and rumors that they are launching expeditions to recover the Silver Crown, which everyone knows was melted down. Finally getting a break from them, he is able to talk to Tygon. The President tells him what he knows about his daughter Carmen’s disappearance and Mellitus’ actions. He asks Darion to resolve the situation, then excuses himself to talk to an associate (the Arbiter).

Thalion meets with the member of the Dragon Watch assigned to the Republic of the North, which turns out to be his rival, Sueldor. Sueldor is aggravated to see Thalion, but agrees to talk to him. They briefly discuss Thalion’s second sword, as well as Althea’s presence (whom Sueldor claims both to know nothing and have heard nothing about).

Pirro talks to a monk named Thich, who invites Pirro to attend his Monastery in Sweetwater and study with him and his husband, Sanaar. After relaying this to Darion, who realizes that Sweetwater is very far to the west, in the Sorian Empire, he goes back to talk to Thich again to find out more information. Erlindar takes this opportunity to cast message on everyone, allowing them to all hear each other from across the room.

Abajeet and Mina get a chance to talk to The Margravine, their musical obsession, and pull out the statue of her they got from the pirates for her to sign. Pirro notices this from across the room and alerts them that it appears very similar to the one that killed Yeronia and everyone else around them. The Margravine promptly collapses and Abajeet quickly stuffs the statue back in his magical bag.

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Session 5
In which the group breaks the fourth wall, and the first and second water pits, and the magical illusions, and the combat dummy, and pretty much the entire Crucible

While en route to Brightwater, Darion wakes up from one of his night visions, visibly affected and injured. He mentions it to no one save Erlindar and Tolarion, who were sharing the cabin with him. Erlindar wishes to examine the Dragon Watch sword recovered from the Irian’s library, but Thalion is reluctant to let him handle it. Mina also requests to handle it and try and draw it, but he refuses.

Additionally, Mina shares a vision that seems to be the compliment to Darion’s vision of Althea, whose perspective Mina shared. In it, she gave the tome to a Curator, or one dressed as a Curator, saying it was the only book Methia ever wrote. Mina and Erlindar then examined the book’s magical wrappings, reportedly meant to guard it from water, harsh weather, and other such things. They were surprised to find dozens of layered spells enchanted into the wrapping, most of which were anti-scrying spells. Mina wished to open the book regardless of the spells, though Erlindar and Darion convinced her it was a bad idea.

After arriving in Brightwater and noticing an increased military presence, the group went to the Scriptorium to return the Book of Lamentations to Iro. While discussing their recent adventures, they asked Iro about conditions in the city. He informed them of some distressing events:

About three weeks ago, some workers cornered an Imperial Alchemist out by himself. Upset by the actions of the Alchemist Constance, the confrontation escalated to violence. The Alchemist and several of the attackers were slain. Most of the rest were wounded in some capacity.

The Imperial delegation protested to House Xiri, pointing out a law from the Imperial occupation that had never been overturned. It mandated that the punishment for the murder of any Imperial Official, including Imperial Alchemists, was death for both the perpetrator and the perpetrator’s family. Prince Oswiu was very apologetic about the fact, but the law was the law. House Xiri guards rounded up those considered guilty under the law, children and all, and executed them. More than thirty people were hanged. A small number were not found, but after three weeks, the Imperial delegation was sated with the blood they received.

There were lots of protests, some of which almost turned violent, but the Imperial Alchemists strutted about the city confident that they would not be touched. House Xiri greatly increased security within the city, in both visible and mroe subtle ways.

House Xiri is also privately deeply concerned about the fate of Mellitus, the Oracle who was sent to settle the dispute between the Republic of the North and the Witch Wood. He has not been heard from in over 2 months. A Curator also had a prophecy that if Mellitus dies on his mission, there will be a terrible war in the North. The ramifications of his death for Brightwater are also troubling.

Finally, a number of Curators out on expeditions have turned up missing or dead. The Chief Curator, after consultation with the council, has mandated that all Curators be afforded protection by a member of the Militant wing of the Curators. Darion’s guardian was introduced as a monk named Pirro, who reported the death of Yeronia, a Curator and friend to Darion.

The group’s mission is to go to the North, find Mellitus, return him safe and sound to Brightwater, and ensure that his original diplomatic mission is carried out. They spend a few days in town before they travel to the North and find accommodations in Jund. It is difficult, due to the sheer number of people in the area for the Summer Trials, but they manage to find some nice rooms.

They travel to the Market Isle, home to the Summer Trials. Vendors are everywhere, selling everything from fish kebabs to potions that will (supposedly) make fire spells turn into ice spells. Mina quickly spots a number of pickpockets working the crowd, but is able to protect the group with meaningful glances directed at the would-be-thieves. It is too late to enter any of the contests for the current day, so they spend some time wandering the festival and seeing some of the competitors. A very large man named Glathrok, no doubt bearing some amount of ogre or giant heritage, wins both the mounted combat and the swimming contests. He does not exactly use noble means in either contest. The crowd revels in booing him almost as much as he seems to revel in being the target of their scorn.

After spending time talking themselves up to the crowds in advance of the next day’s contest for the Crucible, the group enters and openly spends several thousand gold placing bets on themselves. Darion and Tolarion alone do not enter, as Darion is not interested in such mundane feats of physical bravado and Tolarion has no desire to leave his brother unprotected in a crowd of this magnitude.

The next day, the Crucible begins. Everyone in the group is in the same wave of competitors, as they all signed up at the same time. Thalion is the odds on favorite in this wave, and indeed he leads for most of the contest. However, Pirro catches up and passes him near the end. Darion leads the crowd in chants and cheers for his allies, which will coincidently net him a rather nice profit. Mina and Abajeet eventually catch up with Thalion at the last obstacle, and sneak in ahead of him as he destroys it. Erlindar and another man, the only other competitors to have not dropped out, also finish.

After the course is repaired (Erlindar also did quite a bit of damage making his way through the Crucible), the group stays and watches Glathrok compete. They urge the crowd to be entirely silent, ignoring both the behemoth’s progress and his unsporting conduct. At the end of the day, Pirro has the best time and wins the competition.

The group looks forward to the next day, eager to sign up for other events.

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Session 4
In which the GM is really creepy and disturbing

When last we left our intrepid group of adventurers, they had recently been impressed into the service of Saltstone’s navy by Captain Arrvos, who was masquerading as a merchant to lure pirates to their doom. After an exciting montage of pirate-battling, the young (mostly) gang returned to Brightwater. Alas, though, something was amiss: It was immediately apparent that Something Was Wrong, as the merchant district, which should have been teeming with people, was essentially deserted.

Juru’s Other Lantern, the ship of Captain Juru (an eccentric gnome ship captain and long-time friend of everyone’s-favorite-oracle, Darion), was moored in the harbor, but the crew was skittish about discussing current events in the city. As we ventured further into the city, intent on delivering the Tome of Sorrow back to Iro and the Curators, the group was set upon by a group of drunk, angry peasants. Darion’s attempt at calming the mob was unsuccessful, as they were intent on assaulting Abajeet, owing to her obvious alchemical profession. The mob was easily put down, though the group was unsettled that there appeared to be such hostility to alchemists in the city that they would assault a random one on the streets.

The group diverted to the home of Estrildis, the sister of Darion and Talerion, to find out what was going on, rather than risk the longer and more public trek to the Scriptorium to see Iro. Estrildis informed the group that one of the members of the visiting alchemists from the Sorian Emprie had recently become quite obsessed with a local Brightwater fellow, who had rejected her advances. Insistent on “taking what was rightfully hers”, the alchemist had destroyed the home where she believed him to be hiding. The Silver Palace had not taken any action against the offender, the boy was missing, and the city was on edge.

After ensuring Abajeet’s appearance no longer singled her out as an alchemist, the group headed over to the Scriptorium. There they met with Iro, and lo!, but Captain Juru was there, too. The Tome of Sorrow was returned (and 600 gp obtained for the effort), whereupon Iro and Juru informed the group that they had another mission for them—this time to retrieve the Tome of Lamentations. This particular livejournal-turned-Tome was believed to be in the hands of House Irian, an eccentric family from the city of Ystria who had previously been banished from the city for their… distasteful… practices.

House Irian settled a small hamlet, Malegor, near the city of Starll, but this was presumed destroyed during the Scourge of Penwith in 436 BR, over five hundred years ago, and no one had seen or heard from the family since then. Captain Juru believed she had accidentally stumbled upon their manor house (or at least one rebuilt in a similar fashion), and she was eager to depart the city. The group departed from Brightwater that night, at Juru’s insistence, and quickly discovered that Juru was harboring the aforementioned target of the alchemist Constance’s obsessive affections, and almost certainly the reason for her desire for haste.
The journey to Malegor was relatively uneventful, as a powerful Troll mage was among Juru’s crew and proved very skilled at cloaking the ship with magic. (So much for no ship that small having a cloaking device, amirite?) Juru departed from the group not long after letting them out near the hamlet, promising to return for them soon. Initial investigations revealed that the hamlet was populated by what appeared to be normal villagers, with no sign of foul play to be found. The team ventured farther in and noted that something seemed to be wrong, but it was unclear what.

The mansion of the Irian family was perched on a hill overlooking the hamlet and possessed of two large bell towers; not long after initial discussions with a local peasant, one of the bells chimed and the dusk that had been setting on the area reverted to daylight. At the same time, all sound ceased—no noise, no music, no talking. Befuddled (and unable to communicate, really), the group made their way back out whence they’d come, but still found themselves unable to speak. About half an hour later another bell chimed, plunging the area into darkness, but allowing speech (and other sound) once again. The group decided to head for the Irian mansion to try to figure out what was going on.

Knocking was rewarded by the appearance at the door of an elderly man, the caretaker of the estate, who asked if we wished to see the family. Replying in the affirmative, the man led us to a sitting area that was covered in portraits of various members of the Irian family. Initial inquiries seemed to indicate that something was Fairly Wrong, and the striking of a bell again silenced the group. Fortunately, some communication took place by means of pen and paper, so at least there was that. The caretaker, after seeing our determination to visit the family, provided us with four bells, each of which had a different symbol: one with a clenched fist, one with a sun, one with a tear, and one with some squiggly lines (waves?, was the thought). Apparently spooked by the family, the caretaker/butler/whatever guy disappeared, insisting he was needed back in his room.

Initial use of the bells revealed that at least some of them had effects—one “turned on” the sound, and one “turned on” the light (and turned off). Uncertain what to do, the group ventured forth into a hallway and towards one of the wings of the house, whereupon they encountered their first of many floating zombie heads. This was unusual.

Eventually arriving at the entrance to the library, the group found that the library’s doors were sealed shut, with powerful magical enchantments placed upon them. Alas! So, the group continued to the east wing, in hopes of finding someone capable of explaining what the devil was happening. The east wing was home to the family’s gallery, a vast and expansive room filled with statues and paintings of the various members of the family. Talerion rather astutely noticed that, though many of the paintings listed birth dates for their subjects, not all of them listed death dates, and those that did didn’t date later than the 5th century BR.

There wasn’t much time to ruminate on the discovery, as it soon became apparent that there was another patron in the gallery—a woman with a shawl about her head, who had been studying one of the paintings quite intently. She looked stunned (and, initially, delighted) to see any other visitors, but her surprise was quickly overtaken by ill-intent, as she lowered her shawl and lo!, but she was a gorgon, and trying to turn us to stone. (That explained the statues?) The fighting was a bit nasty, not least because more floating zombie heads began to make an appearance (off the statues, natch). Eventually, a bell was rung and the gorgon-lady promptly turned into a beautiful woman who was recognizable as Dahlia Irian. She was clearly a bit touched in the head, such as it were, but was obviously unaware of the actions she undertook as a gorgon.

Lest she seem too sympathetic, it soon became clear that Dahlia was totally-batshit-insane; a famous painter, Dahlia’s portraits were renowned for their skill, though eventually it became apparent that she was indulging in some ethically-dubious behaviors to achieve the “looks” she wanted with her subjects. Anyway, Dahlia revealed that her family was cursed (no shit, Sherlock), and that she morphed into the gorgon whenever the bell chimed that brought the darkness and allowed the sound. She requested that the group bring her an unfinished painting of hers that was in her quarters of the west wing, though the group was forced to beat a hasty retreat after Darion engaged in some rather un-diplomatic discussion and dismissed the woman as a raving loony. (In his defense, she was.)

Having narrowly escaped from the gallery and a tremendously powerful fireball spell (sorry, Erlindar…), the group set out to investigate the front door (locked, alas!) and the bell towers. Investigation revealed the presence of an enormous stone golem at the top of the east bell tower (and presumably the west), with no real way to get around it without the possibility of it activating. The group decided to venture to the west wing, not least because Dahlia had informed them that the library could only be opened if there were two members of the family present. There were four members of the family unaccounted for at that time: Corinthia, the lunatic composer, her two children, Both and Gourd, and Dahlia and Corinthia’s lunatic alchemist older brother, Tamvir.

The conservatory was discovered in the west wing, along with its attendant (huge) organ, and skillful use of another bell turned Corinthia from a banshee into a woman just in the nick of time. Corinthia inquired after her sister and her children, whereupon the group realized that the golems in the respective bell towers were Both and Gourd. Corinthia, too, requested that the group retrieve something for her—this time an uncompleted symphony (for her rooms in the east wing, of course). More about the curse was also revealed, and it seemed likely that the curse was the work of a woman named Lenore, whom Corinthia had apparently tortured. Because why not, I guess? But also because Corinthia, who was a famous composer in her day, apparently “captured” emotions in her music by torturing other beings to death. Good family, great values.

By this point, based on the conversations with the two sisters, it was abundantly clear that the sisters actually had no idea how much time had passed in the outside world and were unaware that it was no longer 434/435 BR, but was in fact 998. This prompted some concern among the group’s members, as they realized that each chime of a bell meant that far more than half an hour was passing. Rut roh!

The group looted the west wing as best they could, coming upon Dahlia’s incomplete painting in the process, as well as some exciting closet-like chambers with chains in them that were clearly used to imprison people so that they could be observed at leisure. Fucked up? Yup. It is also worth noting that Corinthia made reference to torturing some Dwarves (they were “the best” for those things), prompting some disbelief, since even in the 5th century BR no one had seen a Dwarf in a thousand years.

And then it was back to the east wing! Some more looting, which turned up some interesting things and Corinthia’s unfinished symphony. There was some creepy tromping around when it got dark, and eventually the group (after hearing some screaming) ventured out to face whatever-it-was (and hopefully use the appropriate bell to disable it). Unfortunately, the required bell did not work (it was used up), and so the group had to engage in combat with a flesh golem. It was realized that this was Tamvir, the older brother, but the group killed him (not completely intentionally, but it’s hard not to kill something when that something is a flesh golem trying to beat the shit out of you).

Looting occurred in Tamvir’s alchemical lab, which yielded some fun items, as well as a painting of Brightwater under siege, with a Curator in view. It wasn’t one of Dahlia’s paintings, though, but Tamvir had been a Curator (before being expelled from the order), so perhaps that was why? Anyway it was kind of interesting, and way less creepy than Dahlia’s unfinished portrait (which was Super Emo), so at least there was that.

Anyway, the group returned to Dahlia after that and eventually managed to give back her unfinished painting and art supplies. She promptly finished the painting and seemed much happier after that, and at least cured of the gorgon-ness, if not the whole curse. Then it was back to the west wing, to return Corinthia’s symphony. This, too, was eventually successful, and after that Corinthia and Dahlia were reunited at the library entrance, which they opened for the group (having repeatedly noted, during the course of the adventure, that “the library has everything”.
To be fair to the sisters (who, though crazy and horrendously amoral, were actually the nicest evil people you’ll ever meet), the library was pretty bonkers. Massive, and filled with books and items of all kinds (including, but not limited to, a dragon’s skeleton suspended from the ceiling and “Dahlia’s favorite reading spot”, which was, of course, a chair covered in unicorn skin), the library was pretty staggering. The sisters presented the group with some gifts, including the Tome of Lamentations. The other two gifts were Corinthia’s now-finished symphony and Dahlia’s now-finished painting, both of which were stunning and stunningly-sad (and probably worth a whole lot?).

Having finally gotten into the library, but not having released the curse, the group ventured into the crypts (honestly, never a good place to go) to find Lenore. They did find her, impaled upon the huge sword of an enormous statue. She had been put there over five hundred years ago prior, skewered terribly and kept alive by the magic inside the sword, which constantly healed her wound and kept her right on the precipice of death.

Lenore was in tremendous (and basically unending) pain, but the group managed to get her off the sword alive, and she lifted the curse on the house. The group made haste to get out and, finding the front door now unsealed, were able to exit back into Malegor. There they found Captain Juru waiting, frantic for the group’s safety, since they’d been gone for almost two weeks by that point.

The villagers appeared to be coming out of their trances, the curse having been lifted from them as well, and slowly realizing that five hundred years had passed. (Awkwarrrrrrrd.) Juru informed the group that they had not been the only ones to exit, and that not long ago a beautiful woman had exited the mansion, preceded by two hellhounds on leashes. Um, woops?

Some reference had been made earlier (in the mansion) to Tamvir owning a copy of one of Methia’s books (the two books on magic and alchemy, one of which Mina’s mother was after, and which Erlindar received the mysterious letter about). With an, “Oh, shit,” moment, the group decided to go back to Tamvir’s alchemy lab and find the book, though a row ensued over this (Juru wanted to leave immediately), and so Darion and Talerion waited outside while the others went in.
The trip inside was uneventful, since, upon arriving at the lab, they found a secret compartment in the floor, open and empty. Shoooooottttttttt.

And then the group boarded Juru’s Other Lantern and set sail from that horrible, horrible place, worried at what Dahlia and Corinthia’s sick, twisted, and sadistic “artistic” urges would result in next, but essentially unable to deal with them at this point. From there, they set off back for Brightwater, which is where the session ended.

Closing Comments:

1)Darion had two visions before this session, the first of which involved an alchemically-induced fire spreading across Brightwater and destroying it as the seasons passed (oh em gee, a metaphor?). This seems related to the presence of the Imperial alchemists in the city and the unrest being caused by them.

2)The second vision involved Mina’s mother—specifically, it involved her handing over the book she retrieved to someone (it was a first-person-perspective dream, so Darion doesn’t know to whom she was handing it). Interestingly, it also involved her mentioning, explicitly, that this was “the only book Methia ever wrote”, which is highly unusual, not least because the book is one of two supposedly written by Methia. Neither dream/vision is necessarily true and so should be taken with a grain of salt, though the revelation that only one of these books may be Methia’s does explain why Mina’s mother did not care about getting the other from Aryeon.

3)Jason may have forgotten some things, but there are a number of unresolved questions that we, as a group, are certainly going to have, not least because the threads of our different fates seem intertwined. Given that Darion previously had a vision involving all of you guys, this is not wholly surprising (the details of which Darion does not remember, except that he recognized you all once he’d met you), but the group has more reason to stay together now, not least of which is having gone through all this creepy shit with each other.

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Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.

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